The MillionaireBy: Victoria Purman
That got a laugh out of Callum. “How long you back for, bro?”
“A few weeks.”
Callum looked at his brother. “Maybe we can grab a beer sometime. Come by Lavender Bay and see my new place.”
“You got yourself a harbour view from home as well?”
“Yeah. When I manage to get home to look at it, it’s pretty incredible. But I don’t know how much longer I’ll keep the place. Memories, right?”
“I’ll call you.”
“Great.” Chris turned to go. When he got to the doorway he gripped the handle and then looked back with a grin. “Callum?”
“When’s the last time you went surfing?”
Callum rubbed a palm over his jaw. “I don’t remember.”
“Well, you’ve gotta do something, because you look like crap. Go surfing, will you? Or better still, get laid.”
Ellie had had the afternoon from hell. She’d left One Mile Beach and driven back to Sydney in a traffic jam that rivalled those in downtown Los Angeles. Once she’d made it to her flat, in trendy Newtown in the city’s inner west, she’d been hauled over the coals by her editor more than once in the same phone call for “missing” the Chris Malone story. Words which sounded suspiciously like, “You’ll never work in this town again” were still ringing in her ears as she turned the key and went inside.
It was dinnertime and, after she’d showered and changed into cut-off denim shorts and a loose-fitting, tangerine, long sleeved top, she’d ordered Vietnamese take out. She was simply too irritated to cook. Nervous tension and flat out fury did that to a girl. She was moderately angry at Chris Malone for saying no to her request, and for being rude, but she was mostly annoyed at herself. The truth was, she didn’t like chasing people and sticking a recording device in their face, hassling them to talk to her when they really didn’t want to. Deep down, she knew she lacked the killer instinct a reporter needed to survive in Sydney. If she’d had it, she wouldn’t be working for a small suburban paper. She’d be at the big end of town with the hard core journalists and, if she were one of them, she would have chased Chris Malone up the beach and barricaded herself in front of his car until she got the story. A hard core reporter wouldn’t have forgotten all about an interview and asked him about her passion instead.
Ellie’s passion had turned out to be fundraising. While she couldn’t convince people to reveal their sad stories, she’d turned out to be brilliant at getting people to donate things: money, goods for the charity auction, and beer and wine for the ball. She’d been volunteering ever since Grandpa Trev had to be evacuated from his property in western New South Wales the year before. He’d had chest pains for a couple of days, and when the local GP diagnosed a heart attack and the need for immediate surgery, the flying docs headed over and did an emergency retrieval to get him to the nearest hospital. He had the surgery on time, was now under strict instructions to lower his cholesterol, and was back home.
Home. Her grandparents’ property, The Plains, held a special place in Ellie’s heart. It had become a place of refuge and healing for her, twenty-one years before, when she’d needed it the most. It was the summer holidays of the year she’d turned eleven and she’d managed to convince her parents, both nurses, that she was responsible enough to stay alone until they got home from their early shift. Being an only child, she’d learnt to be independent from an early age and relished the time alone. She got to watch her favourite movies and turn her favourite radio station up too loud; bring her cat Leo inside and let him sit on her lap on the sofa, something she wasn’t allowed to do when her parents were home. She had responsibility and freedom all at the same time. And it had all worked well, until the day she’d tried to boil an egg for lunch.
She’d left the handle of the saucepan pointing outwards and she’d knocked it. The near boiling water had spilled over her, soaking up in her T-shirt, clinging to her, searing her skin. She could still hear her own screams. She’d called an ambulance herself and was taken to the same hospital where her parents worked, their racking sobs echoing in the emergency room when they’d seen her for the first time.
A month later, Ellie went to The Plains. Her parents had figured it would be easier for her that way, to be away from Sydney’s beaches and pools, not having to invent excuses about why she had to stay out of the sun or why she might want to hide her body. And in her grandparents’ comforting embrace, she learnt she didn’t have to hide herself away. She wore clothes that were comfortable in the heat without fearing the looks or stares of strangers. Within the fences of The Plains, she was free to be who she was, to not be afraid or embarrassed.